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Apr 29, 2005 6:49 pm

Albert Jay Nock

Albert Jay Nock, one of the great exponents of individual freedom in the twentieth century, was born on this day on October 13, 1870. Nock was very much an heir to the tradition of nineteenth century individualist anarchism advocated by Benjamin Tucker and Lysander Spooner. L and P's own Walter E. Grinder, wrote the introduction to the most recent edition of Our Enemy the State, Nock's lonely and principled dissent against the New Deal status quo (first published in 1935).

According to Grinder,"the New Deals of Hoover and Roosevelt brought Nock about as close to rage as he ever got. For to Nock the New Deals were nothing more than a further solidification of the American Corporate State. A stronger and more ubiquitous government, more pestering, continuously less self-responsibility and free choice, and in the case of Roosevelt's New Deal, an international pestering that surely would, and of course did, lead to war." (Our Enemy the State, xi)

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Kenneth R Gregg - 10/13/2004

Thanks for the reminder of this great libertarian and his achievements. It seems to me that Nock was very much in the grand tradition of classical liberalism in his form of radicalism, with the influence of classical writers as well as more American writers. While I cannot imagine him not having read Tucker and Victor Yarros (who was more active during the time of Nock’s writings—Yarros promoted a version of Spencerian anarchism which he called “rational anarchism”, although later recanting), I don’t recall any mention of Josiah Warren, Lysander Spooner or Benjamin Tucker in any of his books or articles.

BTW, if you haven’t read the original version of “Our Enemy The State”, be sure to look through the back pages of “The Freeman” (1920-24) for his multi-part essay, “The State” which includes not only a moral argument against the state, but also a rather unabashed admiration of the Soviet State and the Russian Revolution! It has never been reprinted but is an essential essay in understanding the evolution of the libertarian movement from the left to the right. A comparison of the two (“The State” and “Our Enemy The State”) shows one of the major factors why, in a comparatively short period of time, an entire portion of the political spectrum was forced from left wing politics to right wing as fellow leftists would shun libertarians for their open exposition against the dangers of Stalin’s regime. This, along with the blacklisting of libertarian writers by “Franklinstein” (as E.C. Riegel, another libertarian anarchist of the time, called FDR) who named them as part of the “reactionary right” and who made great efforts to exclude them from his own circle of favored newspaper writers and encouraged his supporters (and friends in journalism) to do the same, were the chief reasons for the evolution.

Nock expressed surprise in one of his “Journals” books that without changing his political philosophy one iota, he was viewed as an extreme leftist, and later, an extreme right-winger. I’ve given some lectures over the years about this left-right libertarian flip-flop, and find it a fascinating subject.

Just a thought.
Ken Gregg

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